The Daily Life of Kawther Salam
..: Fourteen Women killed at Lighter Factory in Hebron :..
July 30, 2003
Corruption Story No. 4:
Fourteen Workers killed at Lighter Factory in Hebron
An article in Arabic published in Al-Hayat Al-Jadedah can be seen here: P1 P2
On 21 October 1999, 14 women were killed when a terrific fire spread inside the Lighter Factory in Hebron. The Lighter Factory was in three shops with three doors, but only one of these doors was used as the main entrance, the other two were blocked and could not be opened. The shops were built in the middle of the housing quarter in the city of Hebron. While the municipal firefighters were incapable to do their job, the fire could have be stopped in time to save the women by the Israeli army and the civil defense from the Kiryat Arba settlement nearby who had offered their help, but the Israelis were stopped for crucial 15 minutes aoutside Hebron by Force 17. The fire was stopped by the Israelis, but only after the 14 women had died. The women were carbonized completely. They were buried in a mass grave because it was not possible to identify and separate the bodies.
Anyone who would pass by these shops would think the three shops were empty and closed. No one could imagine that the three shops were used by poor women as a lighter factory. The only ones who knew about this fact were the neighbors of the shops, who talked several times with the owner of this factory about the danger of its work, which threatened the security of the employees, all women. Several times fire and explosions rocked the factory.
The factory was licensed by Hebron Municipality and by the PA Ministry of Industry. In front of the shops containing the lighter factory, there is a big Chemistry Cleaning Factory, which contaminated the entire area. In Hebron it's enough to be rich and you can get anything you want without problems. The City Mayor, Eng. Mustafa Al-Natsheh, and his uncle Saleh Al-Natsheh, own two factories in Wadi Al Toffah Street located in the city center.
The City of Hebron is full of factories in the middle of housing quarters, and there are no civil or health laws to protect the people.
On 22 of Oct. 1999 the headlines of my investigation carried a clear declaration, a statement made by the Hebronite citizens asking the Municipal counsel to resign. They accused them of responsibility for the fire in the lighter factory and the death of the 14 women who were employed there. The streets were full of angry people who demonstrated in front of the municipality and threw stones at the building.
Palestinian women in Hebron on their way to the office of a Parliament member.
On the signs are the names of the 14 women killed.
Demo in Hebron because of the death of the 14 Women led by Fatah.
When I tried to enter the Municipality, the mayor's son Eng. Omar Al-Natsheh, threw me down the stairs. Luckily, another man carried me before I fell down. At that moment I could have died if no one had carried me out.
After the terrible event of the death of 14 women workers, the PA declared that a committee would investigate the reasons for their death. But as usual, this commitee like so many other "investigative" committees, achieved nothing.
I suppose it is because some of those responsible for this terrible event were people in the city council, like the Industrial Ministry. This was enough to cover up the truth of the event.
Caricature of Mayor Al-Natsheh published in Al-Ayyam newspaper. He says "From Rafah to Jenin,
one of my ears is covered with slime, the other one with dough" meaning that he doesn't care.
When important people in the PA are involved, the laws can be broken if needed. This is an unfortunate reality in my country. It is a country whose structure is based on the violation of human rights and which lead by corrupt people.